Today, December 1st, is World AIDS Day, a day in which we come together to raise awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of the HIV virus. Today we remember those who are living with the disease, as well as those who have succumbed to its effects, and commit ourselves to working together to prevent the disease from spreading even further.
Nearly thirty years after HIV was first discovered, and after billions of dollars have been spent to prevent and treat the disease, approximately one million people in the U.S. are living with HIV or AIDS. More alarmingly, however, it’s estimated that nearly 25 percent of those with the disease don’t even know they have it.
If you love yourself and others, you must know your status.
One troubling development in the fight against HIV/AIDS is the rate of infection for African-Americans. Although Blacks make up only 12-percent of the US population, we account for nearly half (45%) of all new HIV infections. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “HIV was the 4th leading cause of death for Black men and 3rd for Black women, ages 25–44, in 2006, ranking higher than for their respective counterparts in any other racial/ethnic group.”
Ignorance will not save us and remaining silent about these issues will not protect us.
In an attempt to reach young adults, Global Grind, brainchild of hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons, teamed up with rapper, Talib Kweli, and poet, Bassey Ikpi, to raise awareness about the disease. The PSA, “There Is No Comfort In Silence,” features Bassey Ikpi reciting a poignant piece in honor of those who are living with the disease.
I caught up with Bassey and asked her about her inspiration for the poem and learned her words were born out of her love for a friend.
“I was inspired by Chris Macdonald-Dennis who is HIV positive. He’s a good friend and nothing changed in how I treated him from before I knew until after he told me. I realized that most [HIV] positive people just want to be loved and treated like part of the world. Because of a lack of education, people still treat HIV like it’s ‘catchy’. That stigma prevents people from getting tested and then from getting help for fear of being cast out like lepers.”
“This campaign is to let those that are HIV positive people [know] that they are ALWAYS loved and there is help and medication and support groups and resources to make the diagnosis easier,” Ikpi told CLUTCH. “And also to encourage those without the virus to stop and think about the humanity and to embrace and encourage those who have it. Thus creating a cycle that removes the shame from testing, safe sex and getting treatment.”
Protect yourself, get tested, and continue spreading the word that loving and supporting those with the virus is one of the things that will move us one step closer to eradicating this devastating disease.